Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Review: Josie Maran Whipped Body Butter

This is a series in which, in an attempt to work my way through my sample overload, I spend the weekend trying out samples, then inflict capsule reviews upon the internet.

Hello, internet! How are you? I had a lovely Thanksgiving, and I hope you did, too, and took advantage of whatever bargains tempted you, whether you shopped online, in chain stores or in ye olde quainte locale boutique.

Illustration courtesy of QVC, where I would totally buy it, except they won't let me log on.

Winter is coming

The pie inventory chez Buxom has shrunk (unlike the Buxoms) and the heat is on. We're heading into the time of year where, if I don't take precautions, I'll start to itch. And if I don't take steps to correct the itching, my shins will develop red patches that won't clear up until spring.

I know, not a pretty picture. So I take steps. I slather on a good amount of rich lotion or cream every time I bathe. (It also helps to turn down the heat, but my focus today is on solutions that you can buy at Sephora.)

What to do?

I rummaged through my samples to see whether I had anything new and exciting in the way of body cream to try out. I was delighted to discover a .34 oz. packet of Josie Maran Whipped Body Butter (henceforth referred to as JMWBB, because God, what a mouthful.) JMWBB is a cult classic--I hear about it all the time on YouTube, MakeupAlley, Allure, and Sephora.

But is it any good? Josie Maran's facial cleansing oil is by far the worst I've ever used. Could the body butter possibly be as good as people claim?

The trial

One thing that's nice about product samples is that they can be viewed as a Serving Suggestion. I mean, I assume that .34 oz of JMWBB would cover all but the most morbidly obese of us with no leftovers and no parts of my buxom self left unmoisturized. Accordingly, I rubbed on the entire packet.

The texture of JMWBB is absolutely perfect, neither so thin as to seem ineffectual, nor so thick so as to be difficult to spread. It smoothed easily over my very-slightly-damp self, unlike, say, Nivea's original creme, which has a tendency to stick to one spot when I try to apply it while I'm even a bit damp.

The body butter left me comfortably moisturized but not greasy, and I stayed that way for the rest of the day. I also liked the scent, which lingers (although this could be a problem for the perfumistas out there.) But it seemed fine for use on days when I'm not wearing perfume,

Even though an 8 oz. jar (or, if the Serving Suggestion could be trusted, a 24 day supply) would cost me $35, I decided to pop for a full jar of the stuff. A lot of reviews say you only need to use a little bit, but I used the entire packet, and it soaked right in. When it comes to dry skin, I am a professional. I'm hard core. I tend to use a couple of heaping tablespoons of whatever it is I'm rubbing on myself. If you are similarly parched, you might want to take those "you only need a little bit" reviews with a massive grain of salt. Do I need to remind you that Winter is Coming?

The problem

So, I had justified the purchase, but this is where I ran into problems. I was damned if I could tell which scent I had used. It smelled sort of like peaches, but it turns out that there are about eight different fragrances available. Had I used Vanilla/apricot? Vanilla/peach? Sweet Citrus? WHAT?

It turns out my aging eyes were incapable of perceiving the teeny tiny letters at the top of the sample packet, viz:

I'm sure you can see why.

However, if you take the back of the packet into really bright light and peer at it (or if you take a picture of it and then blow it up to 200 percent) you can very faintly see that


It's Vanilla/Apricot.

But guess what? It's sold out at Sephora.

It's even sold out on the Josie Maran website.

It is, however, in stock at my local real-life, brick-and-mortar Sephora.

OMG I might actually have to GO TO A STORE.

"Horrors!" she exclaimed, as she collapsed amongst the cushions.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Things that cheer me up: scoring something cute for a rock-bottom price

Ever since the presidential election, I've been in something of a funk. Which is my understated manner of expressing my desire to lie in bed and load myself with carbs while obsessively hanging around Facebook with my fellow leftie Bolshies bitching about politics and making donations to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence's name.

But once in a while, something will peep through the clouds.

I recently read a post on Looks Good From the Back about the Barney's Warehouse sale, and raced over, where I scored this pair of purple suede pumps.

That's right--original price: $295, sale price: $119, extra 40 percent off price: $71.40. And with a three percent eBates rebate, too.

Call me shallow, but the gloom has lightened a bit. Thanks, Obama!

Saturday, November 05, 2016

My Sephora VIB Rouge Shopping Basket

Once a year, Sephora runs a sale on the stuff that never gets marked down—high end makeup, skincare, and fragrances. And the beauty world goes absolutely insane. Mind you, 20 percent isn't a huge discount, but it's a nice opportunity to stock up on tried and true products. VIB Rouge members get first crack at the sale, followed by their far less VI brothers and sisters.

Of course, it's a source of complete shame to me that I'm VIB Rouge at Sephora. COME ON. You have to spend $1,000 in a single year to reach that level. And I'm already on record as believing that Ulta and Nordstrom reward their regular shoppers much better than Sephora does. What do you get when you become Rouge--free makeup classes? Pfft—I could teach makeup classes. Next! Wait—you mean you get a free red lipstick??? YAY. My scorn was infinite.

And then, I made Rouge.

In my defense, when the Girls (bird, Martha MacGyver, and Susie Sunshine) were in town last month, we went to Sephora, where we made epic hauls. And some of the Girls—I name no names—gave the cashier my Sephora ID when they checked out. This added to Sephora's perceived total of my spending, and I qualified for VIB Rouge status.

This makes for a fun time when I search my purchase history. Like today, when I was trying to figure out what to buy to take advantage of the current sale. I'm just bird-brained enough to wonder "But if I bought that foundation, where did I put it? I don't remember trying it, and I can't find it anywhere."

Anyway. I was planning to shop in easy stages, because now that I'm Rouge, I get free three-day shipping. I thought that I could buy the really important stuff first, and then really wallow in guilt ponder through things thoroughly, because I had until November 7th to finish shopping.

But then the one thing I really planned to buy—the thing that made me feel like a Savvy Shopper—went out of stock in a couple of hours. So I went in hard. This is what I bought.

Sunday Riley Good Genes

I just started using this product this summer. I started out with a sample, then popped for Sephora's Power Couple. I've fallen hard for this genius softening-exfoliating-glow-giving wonder product, and planned on buying two large bottles to ensure a constant supply at a discounted price.

I placed two bottles in my shopping cart, but when I went back to purchase them, the large size was out of stock. So I bought two of the one-ounce size.

The large size I didn't get. Pout.

Chanel No. 5 Eau de Parfum

A long-time staple. I've gone through multiple bottles of this and am once more down to a tiny driblet.

Guerlain Rouge G in Gracia

Another staple. I'm currently eking out my oldest tube with a lipbrush at home, and carrying the new one in my purse. When I started wearing this shade, I think it cost $48. Now it's up to $54. If there was ever a product I deserve to save money on, it's this lipstick. Honestly, Guerlain, it's lipstick, not world peace.

Estee Lauder DayWear SPF25

I've been using this oil-free moisturizer for at least two years and really like it, even though it's expensive for what it is. (At Sephora, what isn't?)

Before I switched to this product, I swore by Garnier's SPF28 moisturizer, but the Garnier feels heavier and is generally less cosmetically elegant. The Estee Lauder product feels almost like a creme-gel hybrid and melts into my skin.  I use very high SPF Asian sunblocks when I'm really getting a lot of sun, but this is a good daily moisturizer with decent sun protection. It's extremely hydrating, and it's great under makeup.

Sephora collection Blush 101 Face Palette

Finally, something new and different!

The reviews of this palette mentioned that it is a good value, although the blushes aren't very pigmented. Since I'm very fair-skinned and usually wear the lightest shade of blush I can find, I thought this would make a nice all-purpose palette with both pink and coral shades. Also, it's pretty. and on sale, and for $15 (less 20 percent and a 4 percent rebate from eBates) I decided to go for it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Back from a fabulous trip

Hi Internet! Did you miss me? I missed you. I just got back from 10 days in Europe. Mr. Buxom and I decided to celebrate our empty-nester state by taking a trip to Vienna, Salzburg, and Munich.

My only OOTD shot--our first day in Vienna, just off the plane. Wearing vintage Hermes Vienna-themed scarf

The first shopping was done by Mr. Buxom, which meant ... after this, I could buy anything I wanted.

On the ferris wheel on the Prater

Don't panic; we didn't buy any weed.
That was a lot of time to spend with my spouse, and I enjoyed it tremendously, but I didn't want to cheat on him with my invisible internet friends, so I didn't even bring my laptop. I KNOW

We went to the opera twice, once in Vienna and once in Munich.

Giddy at the chance of seeing Figaro at the Vienna State Opera

Both times were amazing. I packed my black and white St. John dress and ... well, just check this post and you'll see what I wore. It worked beautifully--packed like a dream, was totally appropriate, and I could walk around afterwards to go for a stroll and get a drink.

Caviar is always nice.
(I think I've worn this dress six times since I bought it. Wait--should I even admit that???)

On the road to Salzburg, at the abbey at Melk, wearing a different Hermes scarf. I brought four and wore them all.

Our hotel was at the top of this sheer cliff face

Just a small sampling of the eye candy in Salzburg.
I did a little shopping, mostly in Salzburg, because that is the epicenter of trachten, which I'm ... a little crazy about. Unfortunately, since I have absolutely no Bavarian roots, I can't play the ethnic heritage card, so I have to tread lightly, or things can get awfully costumey.

Not me.

I had a great time trying on clothes, because they were designed for women who are blessed in the chest. The shirts and jacket fit through the bust, yet also fit through the waist, shoulders, and sleeve length. And so I bought four shirts and a jacket. And two scarves. And a ring.

And a few gifts ... and some amber jewelry for me.

And that stuff was €$p€n$iv€!

In Munich I went into a local version of a CVS to shop for cheap makeup and skincare. I didn't make a wish list, ask the internet for advice, or bone up on new products from European high-end lines before I left Chicago. First of all, I've discovered no price advantage buying French cosmetics in France. Secondly, what I really like to do is hang out at the drugstores checking out the inexpensive products.

I bought two eye palettes and a highlighter palette by Sleek, a U.K. company; a powder foundation, blush, and liquid concealer by L.O.V., two packages of face wipes and a bottle of Micellar water from Nivea, and a big pot of regular old Nivea cream, because the same size that cost 3 Euros and change would cost $15.00 back home.

Even with all the unpacking and laundry and the fact that I'm currently charging the portable battery doohickey because Somebody left the dome light on in the car for ten days ... I name no names ... and I need to charge one battery so I can jump the other ... I'm glad to be home. But it was a fabulous trip!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Cindy Sherman, eat your heart out

Now THIS is a self-portrait!

In my defense, Mr. Buxom and I were on our way out the door to spend our first date night as Empty Nesters (subtitle: When Every Night is Date Night!). I thought I would document the matchy-matchiness of it all. If my daughter weren't away at college, she'd be rolling her eyes like a slot machine.

St. John black and white knit dress, cleverly purchased at the Nordstrom anniversary sale (But hey, guess what? The last time I checked, they had already marked it down. What profiteth a shopper to purchase something with a pre-season discount if the dress is going to be on sale when it's time to wear the stupid thing?)

Ferragamo black and white Vara pumps, cannily purchased from BlueFly, which always has a supply of interesting, marked-down Ferragamos I never see anywhere else (as well as the usual run of Dull Normals and Outright Hideousness) ... and they come in a C width, so yay.

Chanel black and white long-ass chain-and-bead necklace for which I paid retail years ago. Must remember to Amortize This Purchase, since Coco charges mad amounts for what is, after all, Costume Jewelry.

Vintage black tiny Chanel flap that I probably bought on eBay. Really just big enough for keys, lipstick, phone, and credit cards.

Finally--and this was accidental, I swear--my daughter's black and white cell phone case with a skull on it.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Recent J. Crew hits and misses

So ... I ordered some stuff from J. Crew.

I haven't shopped at J. Crew in a while, although I usually flip through the monthly catalog. The thing is, the way they style their clothes is so relentlessly 20-something that it's a bit off-putting. And the web site is even worse, because the styling is just as odd, and the pictures are even smaller. With J. Crew, I really do best going to actual brick and mortar stores. They tend to have a logical layout, and the stuff on the dummies actually looks like something normal people would wear.

Which explains why some of this stuff is fine, and others ... meh or worse.

First of all, there's J. Crew's on-and-again relationship with Liberty of London. I must have opted out of J. Crew emails, because I never heard about a new launch of Liberty collabs for fall, and then, when I happened upon it, a lot of the stuff was sold out. See this print? I love it.

But there were no shirts left in my size. So when I saw this style was available in a 14, I jumped at it.

The thing is ... the fit is off.

Mind you, I've never cared for the popover style in the first place. I have a prejudice against styles that look like the result of trying to save money on fabric or labor. I've always thought the popover was J. Crew's way to save manufacturing costs, because labor costs would have to go down when you don't need to sew on as many buttons or bind as many buttonholes.

What I hadn't realized is that the popover is a sneaky way to scrimp on fabric, too. The size 14 popover fits nothing like a J. Crew size 14 Perfect Shirt or Boyfriend shirt. It's a bit shorter, is cut straight up and down with no darts or waist indentation, and uses less fabric through the torso. This makes it just snug enough to look both dowdy, because it's shapeless, and vulgar, because it clings unattractively.

If you are either an hourglass or an apple, this will probably end up being magically unflattering.

Back it goes.

The leopard print merino shell and matching cardigan were wins, however. The wool is thin, but not as ridiculous thin as the J. Crew "tissue-weight" cashmere, (which again, strikes me as a cost-savings device disguised as a feature. "Who needs those old-fashioned heavy, warm, substantial, luxurious cashmere sweaters! Buy our tissue-weight in new modern colors with cool names like "pool" and "damson" and look really great until your sweater pills and then develops mysterious holes!")

The Drake's for J. Crew pink silk Perfect Shirt is nice--although the tigers ended up upside down across my chest, and for the money, I think I'm entitled to tigers that are right side up. The pink veers slightly towards a dusty orchid shade, and the orange beasts are a soft coral, so it's not quite as splashy in-your-face as you'd think. The silk is OK quality--not great, but good, and the fit is good, with no unseemly gapping at the bust. The silk screening isn't as detailed as the pants I'm about to talk about, which is really too bad.

OK. These are these pants.

Collection Drake's for J. Crew pants in Midnight Unicorn

They too are silk, and the print is awesome--kind of a combination of a guy's hunting-themed tie and the unicorn tapestry at the Met. They seemed both festive and kind of quirky, but in a good way.

But the fit is bizarre. The 14 was a little loose in the waist, and there was a bit too much fabric in the thighs. Maybe with a slimmer leg, they would've worked. I don't know--the tailoring just seemed off.

Also, these pants have an obviously covered elastic waistband, which, if you're not doing a J. Crew half-tuck, means that you'd have to wear a belt--or risk looking like an outtake from People of Walmart. Which, no. Hidden elastic waistbands? Not for a pair of $200 pants.

And of course, I tried on the pants last. While I was still wearing the leopard print twinset. I can't even begin to describe the tolerant, amused, yet trying-incredibly-hard-not-to-laugh looks my husband and son had on their faces when I came downstairs to ask them what they thought.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Is your skin dry or just dehydrated?

I've mentioned that I've been experimenting with some K-Beauty practices. One of these is double-cleansing. I've become a huge fan because, although I frequently skip putting on makeup, there are very few days where I'm not wearing sunscreen. Maybe when I'm trapped indoors, in February, with the flu. At all other times I have SPF30 or higher on my face. And these high SPFs take some removing, as is only right.

I mean, if the things are water-resistant and sweatproof, they're designed to stick around. But getting them all off at the end of the day is the secret to happy skin free of milia.

The other Korean thing I've been doing is layering my moisturizers, using a variety of K-Beauty (or K-Beauty-inspired) essences, toners, serums, and whatnot.

K-Beauty's baffling jargon

Even though I've purchased two books about K-Beauty and regularly haunt the Asian Beauty subreddit as well as various K-Beauty blogs, I'm still a newbie.

K-Beauty has a steep learning curve partly because the terminology is different. For example, when Korean companies say "toner," they don't mean a pore-puckering astringent designed to blast every bit of sebum off your face.

What are essences?

Essences are thin, watery products that you apply after cleansing and before any additional moisturizing. Some people use a cotton pad, others pour a few drops of the softening lotion into their palms and pat it in. That's the approach I use, because I'm damned if I'm going to spend $90 on a bottle of do-good water only to have most of it end up on a cotton pad in the wastebasket. 

What good do they do?

I could quote a ton of vague-sounding language derived from bottles, ads, books, and blogs, but I'll spare you. Some of these lotions contain active ingredients designed to treat wrinkles and hyper-pigmentation, but basically, these products are designed to hydrate the skin without occluding it. For years, I've been treating my skin as though it were incredibly dry. I've been lavishing all kinds of rich creams onto it. But it turns out it responds very well to these watery Korean potions.

Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion, 5 oz. $96

I started this particular skin care adventure with a sample size of this Estee Lauder product.

Then I branched out. Eudermine lotion is the oldest product produced by Shiseido. It has been around since 1897. I figured if it was the first, and it's still in production, it must be good stuff.

Time travel, Shiseido-style.

Just look at that bottle. This is beauty history, people!

Eudermine Revitalizing Essence, 6.7 oz. $79

Eudermine is a watery, slightly-silky-feeling lotion that smells faintly of peonies. Using it is pleasant, although that glass stoppered bottle is extremely non-travel-friendly.

And then, because it is highly touted by Asian beauty bloggers, I picked up a bottle of Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence.

Missha Time Revolution Intensive The First Treatment Essence, 5.3 oz $26.37

Missha is supposedly very good at coming up with dupes for other, much more expensive products—in this case, an SKII essence that retails for $39.60 an ounce. Which is twice as expensive as the Estee Lauder product I tried.

So OK. I've managed to try essences from three different countries, which sell for three different prices. Here's what I've learned:

1. First of all, like double-cleansing, this whole essence business started in Japan, and Korea needs to get over itself.

2. Essences make a very good moisturizer particularly if your skin isn't as dry as you think it is. Even if you have dry skin, you can use an essence as a hydrating first step, then seal in the moisture with a more occlusive cream. (I'm keeping this invaluable advice in mind for when the heat goes back on.)

3. The entrance of Estee Lauder into the field means that Western companies have caught on to the trend, are producing these products, and starting to market them to Americans. Naturally, Estee Lauder is charging Estee Lauder prices for these items, which means they are stupid expensive.

4. Other companies will soon get busy playing catch-up with Estee Lauder. Look for similar items to be marketed at the drugstore, if they haven't already gotten there. Recently I spotted an advertisement for a Neutrogena line which has been popular in Asia for a while and is finally being introduced here.

It's about time!